Last December, Mayor Farrah Khan appointed Anthony Kuo to be her Vice Mayor. That appointment signaled the beginning of the 2022 City election campaign — with Khan and Kuo now running together for re-election to the Irvine City Council.
Since Kuo’s appointment as Vice Mayor, he and Khan have begun hosting joint meetings, posting selfies on social media together, and making sure that Irvine voters see them as a “team.”
Khan orchestrated the same political maneuver back in 2020 when she voted to appoint Mike Carroll as Vice Mayor. In the run-up to that election, Khan and Carroll appeared at numerous events together and were sold as a team to voters in campaign TV ads and mailings worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Khan’s new political partnership with Kuo may look good on social media but it can’t mask the fact that they stand together — against the people — on a number of key issues of concern to Irvine voters.
Rule of Two
Kuo has been a staunch supporter of the Mayor’s unpopular “Rule of Two,” which Khan implemented to keep critical items off the City Council agenda … and out of the public’s view. Over the past year, Khan and Kuo have used it to prevent fellow Councilmember Larry Agran from agendizing public discussions regarding the voter-approved Veterans Memorial Park & Cemetery; the polluting asphalt plant in north Irvine; the undisclosed shaky finances of the Orange County Power Authority; and the need for a Great Park Residents Advisory Committee and district elections.
Orange County Power Authority
In 2019, Khan and Kuo voted to have all businesses and households in the City of Irvine transferred from their current provider of electricity — Southern California Edison (SCE) — and automatically enrolled into the Orange County Power Authority (OCPA). Khan and Kuo also voted to have Irvine taxpayer money fund the Power Authority through 2022, promising that OCPA would deliver cleaner energy at lower rates. That turned out to be a broken promise. The OCPA’s published rate schedule shows that Irvine businesses and households will be paying more for electricity than they currently do with SCE. Through the Rule of Two (see above), Khan and Kuo have prevented Agran from placing an item on the City Council agenda to find out why rates are higher than what we were promised. Agran also wants to know exactly where the first $7.7 million of Irvine taxpayer money advanced to the OCPA has gone. (Agran is now calling for a comprehensive forensic audit of all OCPA finances.)
Asphalt Plant in North Irvine
Khan and Kuo have aggressively blocked efforts by Agran, who has repeatedly called for the City to take bold legal action to immediately shut down the heavily polluting asphalt plant and relocate it out of Irvine. Last fall, Kuo told the Voice of OC that the City had no legal authority to shut the plant down — even though State Senator (and former UCI law professor) Dave Min sent a detailed letter to the City outlining the same legal argument Agran has advocated.
Veterans Memorial Park & Cemetery
Khan and Kuo both voted to banish the long-promised Veterans Memorial Park & Cemetery from Irvine and shove it alongside the busy 91 freeway — 20 miles from Irvine and just two miles from the Riverside County line. Their vote was in direct defiance of the popular citizens’ initiative — now the zoning law of the City — designating the 125-acre “ARDA” site at the Great Park for our Veterans Memorial Park & Cemetery. Now, Khan and Kuo have jumped on Councilmember Tammy Kim’s bandwagon, proposing a 120-acre botanical garden on the ARDA site — in clear violation of City law. (The plan includes a tiny 5-acre veterans component.) You have to wonder if Khan and Kuo have given any real thought to the fact that a botanical garden would take decades to build and would cost Irvine taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. And, have these two self-professed environmentalists considered the amount of water that will be wasted every day to keep a huge botanical garden “green”?
One of the worst items Khan and Kuo have collaborated on this past year involved their attempt to completely gut the City’s transparency-focused “Sunshine Ordinance” by limiting public notification of Council agendas and moving “Public Comments” at Council meetings to the very end, when the Council chamber is basically empty. (After public outcry — and a letter from the ACLU scolding the City on its disregard of First Amendment rights — Mayor Khan was forced to move public comments to the beginning of meetings.)